Getting to know your characters on a deep level is one of the best things you can do to elevate the quality of your story.
As a whole, but also on a more detailed level.
Character development is linked to pretty much every single aspect of your book and tackling it before starting your first editing round will help you in a BIG way!
Will it take time?
Will it be worth the time?
A thousand times yes!
Let me enlighten you on six reasons you should step into your characters’ shoes sooner rather than later.
1. Plot holes will jump out.
Developmental editing will become a breeze when you know how your character would react in any situation.
The plot of a story is basically a series of actions undertaken by a character in response to specific events.
When you know your character inside out, it’ll be a piece of cake to figure out what does and doesn’t make sense in your story.
Character development will often prove essential to being able to fix any plot holes you come across.
Take my current WIP. When reading my first draft after a few months, I came across numerous plot holes.
Characters made rash decisions that made little sense with who they are, to link the events I considered necessary to the story.
Plot issues identified, the time came to fix them.
Except I couldn’t. I won’t be able to until I spend quality time with my characters.
Until I figure out how they would act in the situations in which they are now acting out of character.
Getting to know them will help me consider new possibilities in line with who they are.
2. Character inconsistencies will become clear.
Where stepping into your characters’ shoes helps to figure out plot holes in developmental editing, it exposes the more detailed inconsistent behaviour in line editing.
Characters have their own way of speaking and gesturing, their own facial expressions and their own way of handling emotions.
When you know how your character would act or feel in any situation, you’ll know when you need to change their behaviour throughout your writing.
The dreaded show vs. tell becomes more natural when you have things to show. Body language, vocal variations and other characteristics become extensions of the character rather than something made up.
3. Your character will come across more naturally.
When you come up with character details as you go along, chances are the writing will feel forced.
You attribute characteristics to your characters rather than fleshing out what’s already there.
The difference is tricky because technically, you make everything up as a writer.
But this small nuance can influence how your writing comes across.
When you get to know your character outside of the actual story, by answering questions from their perspective, for example, the information comes forth organically.
It’s the difference between an info dump and information that’s given out in a natural way to the reader.
When you ask your character: ‘Where do you live?’ and she answers ‘In Hestin,’ the answer seems to go without saying, even if technically you’re the one who came up with it.
4. Dialogue will become easier.
When you know all about your character’s background and speech patterns, the way they speak will become obvious.
This doesn’t mean that stepping into your characters’ shoes will make dialogue-writing effortless.
It does, however, make it easier to create dialogue in which characters’ distinct voices come forward. Dialogue that isn’t bland or monotone.
A trick you can use during the editing process is to highlight every bit of dialogue spoken by a specific character and read the words out loud from their point of view.
5. Relationships between characters will become more natural.
Someone’s past experience dictates how they handle current situations, and how they consider the people around them.
When you know everything there is to know about a character’s past relationships and the way they grew up, you’ll know how easily they trust and judge others, for instance.
The reasoning behind characters’ actions, fears and desires makes them interesting.
The two main characters in my WIP share the same fear of ending up alone, but their backgrounds are very different. Skylar grew up with a full set of parents who didn’t seem to care about her, while Lucas grew up in a loving household but lost his father and sibling.
This different background means they don’t handle their fear the same way.
When you come up with two characters who are afraid to end up alone without considering their backgrounds, they could very quickly end up becoming similar, two-dimensional characters with ‘fear of ending up alone’ attributed to them by their creator.
Allowing your characters to develop away from the story allows them room to grow into their own personalities.
And stepping into their shoes rather than simply describing them from your own point of view, allows the characters to evolve organically rather than mechanically.
6. Spending time with your characters is fun!
Writing is more than putting words onto a page, and character development is an inherent part of writing.
It’s about celebrating creativity and helping the ideas in your mind develop to their full potential.
Getting to know your characters is like getting to know a new friend.
You start with the basics as you write the first draft, but after that, the conversations go deeper.
As you get to know them better, you appreciate and understand them more.
You enjoy hanging out with them more.
And that’s what writing is all about: having fun!
To help you get started, I created a fun little workbook to guide you through making a moodboard for your character. Consider it a first date 😉
The online self-editing course I’m currently developing will have a full lesson dedicated to getting the most out of character development to elevate the quality of your writing, including workbooks and worksheets to help you in the process.
Did you enjoy this post? What was your biggest takeaway? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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